Mike and I got home after dark yesterday from a weekend in San Antonio. It was a quick trip so it was relatively easy to unpack and settle in for the evening. We had eaten dinner on the road which meant that I didn’t have to worry with cooking. We were both feeling a kind of happy tired that we get when we’ve had a good time and neither of us was up to any kind of activity other than watching a bit of television. I took out the remote control for the television and began surfing aimlessly when I saw that Fried Green Tomatoes was showing. That was it for me. I just had to stay right on that channel even though I’ve seen the movie over and over again. Every single time that I watch the film or read the book I find myself wishing that I had enough talent to produce the kind of classic that Fannie Flagg did when she wrote the enchanting story. The movie itself is a perennial choice in the catalog of my all time favorites. While it showcases a tour de force of talent that I appreciate it mostly reminds me of just how important my female relationships have been.
We women really do need each other, just as I suppose that the menfolk require a dose of testosterone time now and again. Throughout our lifetimes we find other females who seem to understand our hearts. They become the important women in our lives, the people that we turn to when times get tough or we just want to have fun. Don’t get me wrong, our marital partners are hopefully our very best friends but sometimes we just need some feminine wisdom to sustain us. As the childhood saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” The ladies in our circle seem to understand the distinctly feminine challenges that define our journeys.
I get emotional when I think of all of the mighty women that I have known going all the way back to the earliest days of my childhood. There was a girl named Merrily who lived just down the street from me before I had even started school. She was my very first best friend. My memories of her are vague but oh so happy. She had beautiful dark eyes and hair that she often wore in pigtails. We spent hours playing together and never seemed to have a single disagreement. She was the person that I wanted to be with from the time that I first awoke each morning. I missed her when we moved away. I never saw her again save for a chance reunion just before my father died. By then we were older and inclined to speak more of things that troubled us. Her parents had divorced and she split her time living with them. It was difficult for her and a kind of blanket of sadness had descended on her spirit. She was able to be candid with me about her feelings and her worries. I remember hugging her and feeling enormous sympathy for her plight. Sadly it would be that last time that we would ever meet again. My own world turned upside down just as hers had. I would never forget her but would instead think of her often and hope that things had turned out well for her.
I have found women to comfort me and make me happy in my neighborhood, my school, my church, my work, my family and my hobbies. Theirs have been spirits that have somehow touched mine. I have been able to talk with them of things that weighed heavily on my mind or listen to their own tales of frustration. We have supported one another and shared beautiful memories. We have laughed and cussed and complained without filters. They know me at both my best and my worst and still love me as I do them. Even when we have not seen each other for weeks, months or perhaps decades we somehow manage to pick up exactly where we left off. We may have totally different backgrounds, beliefs or lifestyles but some mysterious cosmic force binds us together. We are sisters who know just what to say to one another and when to be silent.
I am so thankful for the women in my life. The parade of faces has sometimes changed but there are also those who have always seemed to be there. I miss the ladies who have died. Their absence has left a hole in my heart but I also treasure the moments that we had. I sometimes reach back into my memory to retrieve images of our laughter and the comfort that we felt when we were together. I cry a bit just as I always do when I watch Fried Green Tomatoes. My tears are not so much sad as nostalgic. I long to be with my dear ones for just one moment more so that I might tell them how happy they made me when they were here. It’s something that I all too often neglected to do when I had the chance.
Somehow in life we manage to find exactly the person that we need to walk with us in our journey, someone who allows us lean on them when we are weary. They don’t preach to us, they simply understand. There is a kind of mystical aspect to the ways that we encounter our soul sisters. Sometimes the one person who turns out to be exactly whom we need is totally unexpected, someone that we might otherwise have overlooked. I have reconnected with women that I only passed in the hallway when I was a student and found them to be so much like me that I wonder how we didn’t notice each other when we were young. Perhaps it took a lifetime of experiences for us to fully appreciate our kindred spirits.
Our women friends may be younger or older than we are. Age doesn’t seem to matter as long as there is a bond that ties us together. My granddaughter and I often talk frankly about what is on our minds. She is only twelve but we are able to interact as though we were the very same age. I also know women who might have been my mom with whom I feel so relaxed and able to be myself. I am able to console and be consoled with my daughters and the daughters of the women whom I have loved. It doesn’t seem to matter how much age, time or distance separates the women I call my friends as long as we are together one way or another.
As I think about all of the mighty women who have taught me, listened to me, I am filled with gratitude. They are the reason that I am as strong as I am today. They have encouraged me as I forded streams and jumped through hoops. They know who they are and I hope that they know how much I love them. Each of them has been a beautiful presence in my life. There really are ”angels masquerading” as people and I have been fortunate enough to count so many of them as my friends. As Ninny Threadgoode says in Fried Green Tomatoes, “All these people’ll live as long as you remember ’em.” I intend to remember and celebrate all of my ladies for the rest of my days.